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Posted on May 22, 2015

Lubach: Legally, it was the right decision

By Tricia Lubach

A letter to the editor last week took issue with the decision by the Quincy School District’s Board of Directors to allow formation of a Gay Straight Alliance Club at Quincy High School. There were several factors that went into the decision to approve the club that I would like to share. I preface this by noting that I do not necessarily speak for the board as a whole, but only as an individual school director.
First, this club request was generated by students at the high school, approved by QHS student leadership at the ASB level and sent to the board for final approval, just like any other QHS club has been. It was not initiated by the board. As with any other student-requested club, the board considered the students’ request, particularly the fairness and legality of it, and approved it. The board followed the same procedure in evaluating and approving this club that is followed for all club requests. It was not a legal, political or moral statement of the board.
The school board is required to consider legal ramifications of any decision it makes as part of our duty to protect the school district and community. We sought legal counsel on this issue, as we often do, which confirmed that not approving this club would be a discriminatory practice and would potentially expose the school district to litigation. Like all school districts, the Quincy School District is legally required to have policies in place strictly prohibiting discrimination of any kind against students, staff and community members.
Finally, I agree 100 percent with the writer’s contention that “it is not the job of the school district to make moral decisions for the families of this community.” To have rejected the student-requested club because of personal moral or religious beliefs would have done just that. As with any student club, students are completely free to either join or not join based on their interests and beliefs. Quincy High School ASB has just sent a request to the board to allow formation of a Bible club. I expect that we will follow the prescribed procedure at our next meeting and approve it. This does not mean that we are promoting Christian beliefs any more than approving a Jewish club would infer endorsement of Judaism. Again, to make those religious and moral judgements is not the board’s job and would be discriminatory.
The job of the school board is described clearly in QSD Board Policy 1005 as providing responsible governance, creating conditions for student and staff success, holding high expectations and being accountable for student learning, and engaging with the community to further the community’s vision for its schools. Nowhere do our policies state that the board is responsible for religious or moral judgements. Those decisions and discussions are appropriate for families to have, not the school district. We hold all of our meetings in public, welcome public comment at every meeting and all agenda items are posted publicly in advance to the school district’s website, including the two meetings in which this club was considered and approved.
Being a board member is a difficult, time-consuming and often thankless job. But we do it because we believe it is important work, and we do our best to make the right decisions to help all students thrive and succeed.
Tricia Lubach is a Quincy School Board director and former board president.